The question is why are flu shots for mandatory for healthcare workers? It took some digging to come up with an answer.
The Usual Reasons
Sick workers stay home. Shifts have to be covered, and that costs money. Sick workers spread the flu to other workers, compounding the financial losses. Sick workers can infect patients. Healthcare costs rise. People can die.
Hospitals are being pressured by the Joint Commission and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Following the recommendations made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Healthy People 2020, the Joint Commission and the CMS set goals of a 90% flu vaccination rate for healthcare workers by 2020.
The Joint Commission established an infection control requirement beginning in 2012, expecting hospitals to demonstrate incremental gains until the 90% vaccination goal is achieved. The Joint Commission publication regarding influenza vaccination can be read here. If you’ve ever worked in a hospital, you know how tense everybody gets when “Elvis is in the house”. Flunking a survey by the Joint Commission is no joking matter.
Beginning January, 2013, the CMS required acute care hospitals to report HCW influenza vaccination rates as part of its Hospital Inpatient Quality Reporting Program. These numbers will be available to the public at Hospital Compare. The CMS will impose financial penalties on facilities that have not achieved a 90% vaccination rate. In addition, CMS has announced that hospital-acquired infections – including nosocomial influenza – will no longer be reimbursed.
Hospitals are already under financial stress. Avoiding financial penalties from government payers is a strong reason to comply with the 90% vaccination rule. Passing surveys by the Joint Commission is another.
But There is More…
Many healthcare workers are resistant to being vaccinated for a variety of reasons and excuses. The hospitals need to reach the 90% compliance mark. That leaves two possibilities: vaccinate 90% or fire those who refuse in order to bump up the ratio. A small number of people can’t get the vaccine for religious of health reasons, but this is not enough to skew the numbers. Besides, it is not easy to get a waiver.
Could you be fired for noncompliance? Yes. But the stink being made in the media over rights and lawsuits is a big hassle and costly for employers. Be on your best behavior – it is likely your employer will find another reason to fire you if you don’t get a flu shot.